Dear Mr. Jackson,
Over the last three or so years I have been treated to some of racing's greatest thrills, and they are all thanks to you. They are thanks to you and your willingness to campaign your great horses like champions. Curlin I fell in love with as soon as I saw the replays of his Rebel and Arkansas Derby. I watched in awe, saying to myself now that horse will be a great horse. I backed him all through the Triple Crown and even after his Haskell Invitational, where it was obvious he was just shaking off the rust. You ran him in the Gold Cup against the best older male and another of my favorites, Lawyer Ron. His Classic that year was a thing of beauty, and I still remember the call, "and it's Curlin POWER HOUSING home in an absolutely stylish performance!"
The year after that it was all fun. I loved how he crushed the World Cup field with such ease then came back here to win the Stephen Foster just as easily. You showed just how much a sportsman you were that year. You tried him on turf, and then even after Big Brown was prevented from attending the Classic, you took Curlin to California anyway, even though the surface was new and untested at Santa Anita.
I was sorry Curlin had to retire on that losing note, but he had nothing more to prove and he was a tired horse by the end of that year. After his retirement I thought I was lost, until Rachel Alexandra blew me away in the Kentucky Oaks. Her previous owner had said that he would not race Rachel against males, and after that performance I thought, what a waste, she would be able to handle them so easily. Then you bought her and put together a campaign for the ages. My favorite performance of hers was not the Oaks or the Mother Goose, where she dazzled us with speed and ease. It was not her Woodward, which was won on her pure heart and determination. No, my favorite performance was her Haskell. Speed, beauty, and pure brilliance were all on display, and in my opinion it was her crowning moment.
After a season of dominance, we could only hope she would return the same. A bit of a rush job, to give fans the Zenyatta vs Rachel Alexandra showdown they wanted, delayed that. Her loss in the La Troienne was to be expected, if you cross the New Orleans Ladies out, which many of us did, the La Troienne was her first real race back, and was needed.
After those two heart breakers, she wowed us again. She may not have been perfect, obviously drifting out through the stretch, but in the Fleur de Lis she won by 10.5 easy lengths. The Lady's Secret wasn't the blowout many of us expected, but then again on a day that had a heat index of 105 degrees, who could blame Calvin for wrapping her up as soon as he gained the lead?
After these two races, all Rachel fans were so confident that she would win the Personal Ensign Handicap. She was working better than ever before, had two strong wins under her belt, and seemed well on her way to regaining her 2009 form. It was a huge let-down when she dueled for over a mile with Life at Ten, putting her away on the far turn, only to get caught in the final strides by Persistently.
That loss hurt, but after finding out facts like no horse since 2006 had been able to take a grade one, 10-furlong race wire-to-wire at Saratoga, it lessened the blow. To know the track has been insanely deep and tiring over the last few years meant that for her to last as long as she did in her first try over 10 furlongs, was unreal. It gave me and countless others confidence that the Personal Ensign set her up for a HUGE performance in her next possible start.
After a series of strong works, two bullet moves, our hopes were high. She was looking again like a monster. Many were convinced that after her final work she would decimate the Beldame field. There were those, like me, who even thought she could win the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Then you dashed all of our hopes and expectations in one swift sentence, that Rachel had been retired.
After that, not just me, but many lost a lot of respect for you. Part of me doubts Steve, Dominic, or Calvin actually knew you were going to retire her. Steve was not training Rachel like a horse he knew had a good chance of a soon-to-be retirement, he was training her like she was going to race, and she was looking like she was ready not only to race, but to return to her form of 2009.
The sting of her retirement smarted even more as we watched the two races she could've potentially been in this weekend. The horse she beat by 10.5 lengths in her final start WON the Beldame and did it with ease. Rachel had run Life at Ten into the ground last time, and seeing her return to win only strengthens the belief that Rachel not only would've won, but she would've crushed the field. The Gold Cup unfolded as I would've predicted, but even better. Rachel would've run away with that race and demolished Haynesfield. If he could win off of fractions like that, running even Blame off his feet, Rachel would've done it ten times better.
Mr. Jackson, for two years you were the best thing that ever happened to racing. You were a sportsman, not afraid to take on the best, even if it meant there would be a possibility of losing. You brought back both Curlin and Rachel as four year olds. You even kept faith in Rachel after she lost her first two starts this season. However, the last move you made, the one that will be remembered most, was a duck. Perhaps you were scared that Rachel, despite training like a monster and having the bottom Personal Ensign provided her, might not win.
If you were not scared, and there was some underlying reason like a nagging injury that provoked her retirement, we as her fans and loyal supporters deserve to know. We deserve the truth. We have defended you, Curlin and Rachel against many naysayers and never lost faith.
So, Mr. Jackson, was it a loss of faith and ultimately a duck, that led to Rachel's premature retirement? Or, was it an injury that stole away the horse who was the hero to so many?